The Purge

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Purge Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Home invasion movie has intense ideas, strong violence.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 85 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 25 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 129 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages
The messages in this movie occupy complex gray areas. The youngest boy in the family tries to do a good deed, but it goes horribly awry. The family must also decide between fighting (possibly killing others or getting killed) or facing certain death. Then there's the overall message of the "purge" itself. The movie includes many voices on television and radio arguing over the event's good points and bad points -- although either way it comes down to violence and killing without consequences.
Positive Role Models & Representations
Most of the characters are simply meant to illustrate the horrific, dual-sided nature of the movie's sinister idea; they're symbolic rather than sympathetic. The main characters are kind and likeable, and they exhibit bravery in the face of danger, but viewers are certainly better off questioning their behavior than emulating it.
The movie starts off with surveillance footage of acts of violence, fighting, stabbings, shootings, and dead bodies. During the course of the movie, characters (both major and minor) -- including teens -- are shot, stabbed, and/or killed. There's heavy fighting, including attacks with various objects (pool cues, vases, etc.). A prisoner is tied up and tortured (a character pokes a letter opener into his open wound). A woman's face is smashed on a glass table, and her nose and mouth bleed profusely. A fair amount of blood is shown, though the movie isn't overly gory.
Two teens are shown kissing and engaging in "heavy petting." The girl undoes a couple of buttons on her top, but they stop before anything goes further. Otherwise, the movie shows a married couple who are comfortable with each other, but with no real sex or innuendo.
Language is fairly infrequent but contains strong words. "F--k" and "motherf----r" are used a few times. Other words include "bulls--t," "son of a bitch," "penis," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), "hell," and "goddamn." A middle finger gesture is used.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink glasses of wine with dinner.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Purge is a futuristic sci-fi/horror movie with a horrific idea: Once a year, American citizens are given a 12-hour period in which they can do whatever they want -- including murder -- legally. This supposedly has the effect of reducing crime and lowering unemployment. Violence is strong throughougt the movie, with various beatings, stabbings, and shootings, with lots of dead bodies (including teens) and a fair amount of blood. Language includes a few uses of "f--k" and other strong words, and a teen couple is shown making out and getting a bit hot and heavy. The movie may inspire discussion about human nature, mob mentality, the function of society, consumerism, exploitation, the rich and the poor, and other hot topics.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBlitzGuy20 July 5, 2020

Genius horror film has disturbing violence and some strong language

The Purge follows a family of 4 on the night where all crime, including murder, is legal for 12 hours. Despite their advanced security and lockdown tech, the fa... Continue reading
Adult Written byParent L. January 27, 2018


It's a great movie I'm a dad of two boys we watched the movie together it's a bit like hunger games but better its not what common sence media sa... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byJohn A. June 9, 2019

Rated 15 (strong threat, bloody violence, language).

SEX/NUDITY - Some minor sensuality between teens, and a brief sexual remark. VIOLENCE/GORE - There are frequent scenes of strong bloody violence, including stab... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byLucaFan May 25, 2019

Not as good as the trailers

Watched the trailer thinking it looked amazing but the actual film was a bit all over the place. It wasn’t very scary and most people’s can watch it

What's the story?

In the year 2022, the U.S. government has established THE PURGE, an annual 12-hour period during which citizens can do whatever they want, legally, even murder. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) has made tons of money selling security systems to the wealthy, and as the purge begins, he prepares to barricade himself inside with his wife Mary (Lena Headey) and kids, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder). Unfortunately, Zoey's boyfriend has snuck in just before lockdown, and Charlie tries to help a homeless man by letting him in, too. These small events eventually lead to a terrifying standoff: James must decide whether to sacrifice one man to save himself and his family or fight and face certain death.

Is it any good?

The movie has a fascinating premise, but it's too dark for most teens, especially younger ones. Writer/director James DeMonaco, who previously wrote the screenplays for The Negotiator and the remake of Assault on Precinct 13, adds a new wrinkle to the "home invasion" subgenre here. His idea of the futuristic "purge" brings up many layers of ideas worth discussing. The Purge is clever enough to begin asking these questions right away and to make the audience implicit in the discourse. It's impossible to watch and not wonder, "What would I do?" and "Is this right or wrong?" Or, worse, "What if it's a little of both?"

The movie isn't quite as clever at its story and character level. The typical cat-and-mouse chases around the house rely on characters never looking in the right place at the right time, and it becomes clear that they're more important to the movie as representations than as sympathetic characters. Only Rhys Wakefield as a strangely polite, intelligent, grinning invader provides anything of human interest. Regardless, a movie this smart and ambitious isn't easy to dismiss.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Purge's strong violence. Is the violence necessary to express the movie's point? Could it have been less violent? More violent?
  • What do you think of the idea of "the purge"? Would it really lower crime and lessen poverty? What other issues does it bring up?
  • What's the movie's perspective on business? The rich and poor? What reaction do you think the filmmakers expect from viewers?
  • Should Charlie have let in the man calling for help? Why is his good deed punished?

Movie details

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